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On May 8, 1846 the New York State Legislature created the Western House of Refuge
, the first authorized state-supported institution for the confinement and reform of juvenile delinquents in the United States. As of 1850, state law mandated that young men under the age of 16 could be committed to the W.H. of R. for vagrancy or a criminal conviction in a court located in Western New York. A 42-acre site was purchased for the institution in the city of Rochester for $4,200. It was located in the northwest section of the city, west of Lake Avenue at the junction of Phelps Avenue and Backus Street.